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Living The Future: Lasers Replace Spark Plugs

A team at the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics will announce on May 1st, 2011 that they have designed lasers that can ignite fuel/air mixture in combustion engines. With this approach, the engine’s efficiency will increase dramatically, thereby reducing pollution by igniting more of the mixture. The team is currently in talks with the spark plug manufacturer. Spark plugs currently work by igniting the fuel mixture near the spark gap which reduces the combustion efficiency. The spark plug’s metal is also prone to erode through time.

The recent view that smaller lasers can be an excellent substitute for traditional spark plugs, has come to surface. A team of researchers from Romania and Japan has demonstrated such a system that can focus two or three laser beams into an engine’s cylinders at variable depths. This increases the completeness of combustion and avoids the issue of degradation through a car’s life. The only requirement that the lasers must meet is that of having high pulse energies.

Lasers made of ceramic powder fits just the bill. The ceramic powder is pressed into a spark-plug sized cylinder and is an excellent vehicle for the current. Furthermore, ceramics are much stronger than the delicate crystals normally used in high-power lasers, and work much better under heat. As previously mentioned, the team is speaking with a spark plug manufacturer, Denso, for widespread commercial use. The pictures displayed to the left are not related to spark plugs or spark plug manufacturing.

Photo Courtesy of FatLlama
Photo Courtesy of SaschaG